White onion soup, charred tomato, Healey’s mature cheddar

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Preparation info

  • Serves


    Starter Portions
    • Difficulty


Appears in

Mile 8: A book about cooking

Mile 8

By David Higgs

Published 2018

  • About
Five Hundred at The Saxon

The white pepper in this soup is a key flavour, and is a great combination with the cheddar. Remember, if you are making a fire at home for a braai, the coals before and after you have cooked are ideal for roasting vegetables for soups and sauces for the next day. We need to start thinking about energy use and waste, not only product.


Onion soup

  • 1.6 kg white onions
  • 100 g butter
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • 5 g garlic
  • 700 ml water
  • 30 ml cream
  • salt and white pepper

Vine tomatoes

  • 16 tomatoes
  • 50 ml olive oil
  • 1 vanilla pod

Onion ash petals

  • onion peelings and offcuts

Pulled focaccia croutons

Onion ash oil

  • 5 ml onion ash powder
  • olive oil
  • 8 thin slices (55 g) shaved Healey’s mature cheddar – 1 slice per serving


Wrap whole onions with skin on in foil and roast at 220°C until soft. Once cooked, remove the outer skin, cut the insides into large pieces and place in a pot with butter, thyme and garlic. Cook without colouring. Add 500 ml stock and simmer gently until the onion is tender. Remove from the heat and leave at room temperature for 1 hour. Add to a blender with the cream and blend until smooth. Adjust consistency with the remaining stock, and season with salt and white pepper.

Wash the vine tomatoes, ensuring that they stay intact with the vine. In a separate bowl combine the olive oil with the seeds of the vanilla pod. Gently heat to infuse and brush carefully over the vine tomatoes. Place tomatoes in a wood-fired oven or under a hot grill to blister. Reserve juices for finishing the soup when serving.

Place onion peelings and offcuts on a tray and into a wood-fired oven. Roast the skins until black and charred. You need 8 petals to garnish the plates – reserve any extra for the onion ash oil, unless you have already prepared onion ash powder.

Pull 24 small pieces of focaccia bread without the crust from the loaf and deep fry until golden brown and crunchy. Drain excess oil on paper towels.

Mix together the onion ash powder and add olive oil until the mixture is liquid enough to drizzle. Alternatively, blend the reserved charred onion skins (from the onion ash petal recipe) to create a powder and drop into olive oil.

To assemble, serve each portion of soup with 4 blistered vine tomatoes, 1 onion ash petal, 3 pulled focaccia croutons, a slice of Healey’s cheddar, 3 drops onion ash oil and the reserved tomato/vanilla juices from the blistered vine tomatoes.